Daniel Quinn has an intriguing and quite plausible take on sustainable living. I read 3 of his best known works recently (Ishmael, My Ishmael & Story of B), one after another in a span of 2 weeks, after Ishmael captivated me.
All 3 books read like a novel and so not tough to consume.
He says civilization as we know it (agriculture, religion, city-building, industrial revolution, rich-poor divide, famines, poverty, man killing whole species to satisfy his hunger, population explosion, food shortage etc. all leading to unsustainable living and eventual collapse) is just a fleeting moment in the larger human time-scale. Our history books cover only these last few 1000 years.
Before civilization happened, we have the black box called pre-history, which is seldom studied. This pre-historical period is believed to have been a much much longer time period.
In terms of proportion, human civilisation is just a small fraction of overall human history.
And man has lived the entire pre-history sustainably in perfect harmony with his environment.
In the name of civilization, we are destroying the world and ourselves.
Now, how did the pre-historical man live?
1. He was predominantly a hunter-gatherer and lived in small tribes.
2. He considered himself just another animal in the food-chain, albeit fleet-footed and powerful. He didn’t disturb food chains by cutting off links. We are now doing that by killing whole species like rodents, foxes, fishes etc. If one species reduces in numbers dramatically or becomes extinct , both its predator and prey are affected. This causes a domino effect across all other parallel food chains, which can eventually destroy all life including humans.
3. His tribal population was controlled by food availability. He didn’t have a food shortage problem like we have now. During seasons of lesser food, he didn’t breed. So he managed to control the number of mouths to feed.
4. He didn’t practice agriculture, which can be described as food production and storage. He just hunted what was available. Agriculture means we produce food at will. More food leads to more breeding……more population, and this seems to be a scientifically proven fact. More population needs more food….and so it goes on. Good bye to sustainable living.
I think the fundamental threat to sustainable living is population explosion, unabashed consumption and wastage.
Daniel Quinn deserves a read by everyone of us.